Town awaits word of funding to replace outdoor swimming pool

  • Dec. 21, 2009 12:00 p.m.

Mayor Dale Barr and town manager Russ Wardrope (standing) were in attendance at the community centre on Dec 10 for a public meeting to discuss the future of the aged Rimbey Swimming Pool.

Staff

With temperatures nearing -40 degrees C combined with a significant wind chill factor, the evening of Dec. 10 probably wasn’t the most ideal time to be talking about outdoor swimming pools. Nevertheless a fair-sized crowd was on hand to discuss and debate what should be done with the local swimming pool at a meeting sponsored by the Town of Rimbey.

“The meeting was informative and went quite well,” said town manager Russ Wardrope. “We would’ve appreciated and liked to have had more individuals out to express their opinions but the nature of the meeting was primarily to gather public input on the design and concepts that would be employed if the pool project went ahead in revitalizing the existing pool.”

Wardrope said by all indications, those in attendance agreed that something must be done, and soon.

“We did, in terms of suggesting that one of the things we wanted to solidify, was that the concept plan that was being presented incorporated what the general public thought was a good idea for the outdoor pool,” he said. “Those included a new tank, new modernized change rooms and family change rooms as well, modernization of the equipment for the pool’s filters and those types of things.”

Other plans for the revamped pool include a new waterslide and spray park, along with a zero-entry feature that would simulate walking into a lake gradually as opposed to jumping into waist-deep water, for the benefit of small children, the physically challenged and seniors.

Further, based on conceptual plans, all the additions are expected to fit within the footprint of the existing pool, which is sized as a junior Olympic pool with five lanes and 25 metres in length, with the zero-entry feature being on the side at the pool’s shallow end.

Development plans were given a shot in the arm recently with the announcement that Ponoka County had committed $500,000 to the project, however those funds are contingent on the Town of Rimbey acquiring another $750,000 from the federal government’s Recreational Infrastructure Canada Program (RinC).

Wardrope said the town expects to hear back from the federal government within one month whether the funding has been granted and if so, the public may see work begin very soon.

“The work will have to be done primarily in 2010 and that’s part of the agreement. If the $750,000 RinC grant application is approved, the money has to be spent and done by March of 2011 so if the project goes ahead, we’ll see activity in the early spring,” he said, adding the work may result in a temporary closure.

“We would like to do this and have all the parts replaced without having to close the pool in July and August but that depends on the availability of contractors, timing and how long it will take, along with what we have to remove to build new,” Wardrope said. “Our existing pool is a 40 year-old pool and yes, we would like to keep it open for the 2010 operational season however if the requirement to have a new pool means that it’s closed for that period, then it has to be done.”

While there’s been plenty of debate as to whether it should be an indoor or outdoor pool, Wardrope said because of the relatively small population base in the area, an indoor pool is not financially feasible, but there are a few options for water babies.

“Recognition has been there since about 2002 when they first started looking at replacing the pool and evaluating on what would be the ideal replacement and if it should be an outdoor pool or an indoor pool and/or other options,” he said. “The conceptual plan that we’re sticking with now is replacement of the existing outdoor pool, for a lot of reasons. The operational cost of an indoor pool is really significant and we may not be of sufficient size to carry that type of a burden and for the winter months, we’re not that far removed from indoor pools.”

Specifically, Wardrope said those who want to do the backstroke, breaststroke or even the belly flop could access several indoor pools during winter close to Rimbey including Rocky Mountain House, Sylvan Lake, Ponoka and Red Deer.

With a budget of $2.25 million, the completion of the project will require an additional $1 million, however the town will apply for additional funding through the provincial government to lighten the financial burden for taxpayers.

“This is a really necessary move on the part of the town,” Wardrope concluded. “The 40-year-old pool is still operational and functional but it is very old and to keep it and to sustain pool operations, we have to do something soon.”

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